Eric Kaduru is the co-founder and CEO of KadAfrica, a commercial passion fruit farm and out grower network. Eric works with more than 1,500 out-of-schoolgirls aged between 14-22, in western Uganda to build viable, sustainable agro enterprises cultivating passion fruit. KadAfrica provides curriculum based and hands on training, access to land, agro inputs and market accessibility.
The initial idea of KadAfrica wasn’t based on passion fruit. Kaduru and his wife Rebecca came up with the idea when they were on a lunch date. At that restaurant they came across a magazine that highlighted Vanilla farming in fort portal. He immediately saw an opportunity in agriculture though it was his first time venturing into agriculture.
The more research he did on Vanilla farming, the more impractical it seemed because of the time it took to grow and make a return. So he ended up buying a greenhouse and started with tomatoes and eggplants instead. Eric later realized that traders controlled the market. You’d harvest your crops and when you reach the market, prices were up today and low tomorrow. I started looking into a crop that had a longer shelf life and passion fruit was the ideal crop.
As he worked with farmers in Uganda, he realized that men weren’t interested in farming. And for the women who were interested, their husbands took all the money they would earn. So instead of paying them cash. Eric would pay their children’s school fees and give the women a bag of rice or beans. So from that he started providing seeds to grow passion fruits and in return he would buy their harvest. So that’s where the idea of working with young women started.
Slowly, more women started expressing interest. Since i didn’t have big chunks of land to accommodate all the women. KadAfrica partnered with the Catholic relief services Uganda and was given a very big piece of land and piloted a project of over 1500 girls. This number grew from 500 girls we had started with at the beginning.
To tackle the issue of girls who might drop out of school deliberately to join this project. KadAfrica put in place specific measures. A girl between 14 and 17 years of age needs permission from their parents, guardians or local chairperson verifying that this girl is not in school, she lives in this particular area and she needs help. So girls don’t just drop out of school to join the project.
The whole program takes 6 months and the girl can decide if she wants to stay committed to the program or if she feels confident to start her own business she can leave. Some of the courses in the curriculum include mathematics, entrepreneur studies for beginners, financial literacy, sexual education, health and hygiene. So it’s a school environment without actually being in a school.
As a result of these trainings and studies, these girls are making between $50 and $70 a month compared to the $25 they earned before they joined the program.
KadAfrica recently launched the “Agro program” which is open to anyone including young men and older farmers in the region. It hopes to attract even the young girls who will have graduated from the KadAfrica main program. When they graduate. The girls are given free seeds to take home and share the knowledge with their parents and communities.
Currently KadAfrica operates from Kabalore district and soon expanding to Kamwenge and Bundibugyo districts. These are big districts and Eric wants to get it right before further expansion.
Governments in Africa are more involved in agriculture compared to other sectors. With KadAfrica, the government hasn’t been of much help as said by Eric. “They only provide seeds but don’t train people or even provide markets for their crops.” With such strategies, the government is only wasting resources because it doesn’t help anyone.
Funding is usually the main issue when start-ups and new projects are being established. Eric wasn’t spared either. Both Eric and his wife used their personal savings to start. Eric advises young entrepreneurs to first approach friends and family while raising funds and also try out crowd funding because access to capital is almost impossible when you don’t have collateral.
KadAfrica is building a proper supply chain so that it can start adding value to products. Eric plans to establish a processing facility this year that will be working with 5000 farmers.
Eric’s vision is to see a proper supply chain built and a distribution network setup and be able to supply goods outside Uganda and even exporting to the US and Europe.